A dear friend of mine, and world-class raconteur, would entertain people for hours with his humorous tales. His motto? Don’t ever let the truth get in the way of a good story.
Unfortunately, too many in the mattress industry take this motto to heart when dealing with customers.
“The percentage of wool in this fiber is 110%.”
“All of our polyurethane foam is certified organic.”
“This mattress is absolutely guaranteed to cure lower back pain.”
So, what is an ethical mattress retailer to do when a customer presents them with mattress misinformation?
- Avoid being defensive. Shoppers don’t know much about mattresses. They’re visiting a store expecting to become educated. And while they may repeat some of the bogus claims they were told at other stores, chances are they weren’t smelling what the other store was cooking – otherwise they wouldn’t be in front of you asking for further clarification.
- Don’t feel the need to prove yourself. Yes, you’re very knowledgeable, but you don’t need to beat the customer over the head with your credentials. You’ll gain a customer’s confidence through the complete, objective, and referenced manner in which you answer their questions. If you have to brag about how good you are at something, it probably means you are not. Talking about you instead of the question at hand speaks to insecurity, and customers can smell that like a swarm of sharks smell chum.
- Pick your battles. It isn’t necessary to correct each and every piece of misinformation presented. Focus on the overall goal of helping your customer find the product that best suits their needs and ignore the minutiae. Does it really matter if the spring count they quoted is off by 20?
- Lectures are for college. Don’t belittle or chide a customer for stating improper information. Take their side – shopping for a mattress is made unnecessarily confusing and quite often these people are frustrated. When correcting a statement, inform and back up what you say with research instead of challenging that person. Making you feel better + making the customer feel dumb = you making no sales.
- Don’t disparage. We all have vendors near us who maintain less than stellar reputations. When people complain about a bad experience at another store, don’t treat it as an invitation to a dog pile. Instead, try apologizing to the customer that they had a bad experience and then immediately refocus on helping them have a great experience.
- Subjective versus objective. Present information that is derived from fact, not regurgitated talking points. However, you’ll often be asked for or want to express your own opinion about something. When doing so, make sure to clarify that this is your individual position, and perhaps relate a personal experience to validate your stance. Your client will appreciate your honesty and the fact that you’re not presenting your own view as carved in stone.
Much of what I presented here flies in the face of traditional mattress retailing. While the pressure tactics of saying whatever it takes might get you a sale in the short term, it won’t lead to goodwill in the long run. Build your reputation as a knowledgeable retailer through educated, concise, and honest answers that are not confrontational. Over time, the word will get out that you know what you’re doing and that you have the interest of your customers at heart. And those are the types of stories that people won’t mind telling.